THE fall in the number of complaints against police forces "masks wide discrepancies" in how they are handled, the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) has said.

The national police complaints statistics for England and Wales 2017/18 revealed that some police forces choose to formally investigate most allegations made against them, while others use the less formal "local resolution" process.

Statistics revealed that a total of 31,671 complaints were recorded by forces - including Gwent Police - which shows a seven per cent decrease on 2016/17’s figure.

Overall, 42 per cent of allegations finalised in 2017/18 were locally resolved by police forces and 44 per cent were locally investigated. Gwent Police completed 19 per cent of allegations by local resolution.

The statistics also showed that on average, it took Gwent Police 129 working days to locally investigate an allegation, compared to 173 nationally.

And for allegations finalised by local resolution, it took an average of 24 working days to resolve the allegation, compared to 72 days nationally.

Director for Wales Catrin Evans said: “More important than the overall numbers, is the opportunity for forces to learn from the complaints they receive. Police forces in Wales know how important it is to listen and act so that improvements are made to the way they handle complaints. The concerns expressed by local communities help forces to improve and this can be positive for relations between police forces and the people they serve.

“The way forces handle complaints varies greatly and we hope that changes coming into effect next year will provide greater consistency in approach. We will continue to work with police forces to help develop their complaints handling.”

A spokesman from Gwent Police said it welcomed the report.

He said: "Gwent Police endeavours to provide an efficient and effective service to the public. We would encourage members of the public to contact us if the quality of service they have received has not reached the standard they would expect.

"When we receive a complaint we aim to resolve it in a fair, timely and professional way; ensuring that any opportunities for learning are identified, so that improvements can be made to the service we deliver to the public."

A number of changes to the complaints system will be introduced in 2019. Under the changes, forces aim to improve how allegations are defined, so the categories provide more clarity about what specifically is being complained about.